August 11, 2022

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Koniko Yamamura, narrator of “Immigrant from the Land of the Sun”, dies

TEHRAN – Koniko Yamamura, the Japanese-Iranian narrator of the Persian bestseller “Immigrant from the Land of the Sun”, died from a respiratory problem at Tehran’s Khatam al-Anbia Hospital on Friday.

Due to her marriage to an Iranian man, she was called by her Iranian name Saba Babai. She shot to fame after her 19-year-old son Mohammad Babai joined Iranian soldiers during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and was martyred in April 1983.

“Immigrant from the Land of the Sun”, her memories of living in Iran written by Iranian author Hamid Hesam was published in 2020.

The book has been translated into Arabic, Turkish, Russian, Urdu and Pashtu.

Japanese Ambassador Kazutoshi Aikawa and a number of his colleagues paid a visit to Yamamura a few days after her admission to the hospital.

Yamamura’s death triggered a flood of messages of condolences from Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Raisi praised Yamamura’s contributions to educational centers, charity events and the Tehran Peace Museum, and said, “This immigrant from the land of the sun raised her brave son Mohammad Babai and dedicated his life to Iran, and his memory will live on in the country forever.”

Yamamura chose the name Saba after she married an Iranian Muslim in Japan and moved to Iran afterwards, where her life was totally changed after her 19-year-old son Mohammad was martyred.

What made her life distinguished were the events that changed her life.

“I never thought my life story would turn into a book, because if I were living in Japan with my parents, I would have had a typical life, but marrying an Iranian Muslim changed my life totally,” she has said.

“After the martyrdom of my son, several writers proposed writing my biography but I did not consent. However, I met Hesam on a trip to Hiroshima and I trusted him, and the interviews began for the book,” she added.

Hesam previously said that he met Yamamura in 2014 during a visit to Hiroshima along with a number of Iranian cineastes, authors and war veterans who attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony.

The ceremony is held annually to commemorate the anniversary of the tragedy of the U.S. nuclear attack on the Japanese city.

“I met Yamaumura at the airport where she was introduced to us as the translator of the team. I noticed that she was reciting verses of the Holy Quran while onboard or when she sometimes told me short memories of her life,” Hesam said.

“Later, I noticed that she patiently listened to the survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombardment and those Iranian veterans injured in Iraqi chemical attacks as she was in tears. It was in those years that I began talks through interviews, and gradually I was successful in writing her untold stories,” he noted.

Photo: A file photo shows Koniko Yamamura posing with a picture of her son Mohammad Babai who was martyred during the Iran-Iraq war.


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